Stocks: Investors take a breather

October 24, 2012: 8:04 AM ET
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NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

U.S. stock futures were little changed Wednesday, as investors took in mixed economic data from China and Europe ahead of more corporate results.

Asian markets ended mixed after a report showed China's manufacturing sector hit a three-month high in October.

HSBC's initial purchasing manager's index for Chinese manufacturing jumped to 49.1 in October from 47.9 the previous month, the bank said Wednesday. Any reading below 50 indicates that factory growth is shrinking rather than picking up speed.

The Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP)edged up nearly 0.1% and the Hang Seng (HSI) in Hong Kong gained 0.3%, while Japan's Nikkei (N225) slid 0.6%.

Meanwhile, news out of Europe was less encouraging.

A key survey of purchasing managers in the euro area underscored the grim economic situation in the currency zone. The Markit composite PMI fell to a 40-month low of 45.8 in October, signaling continued decline in the manufacturing and services sectors. Additionally, a gauge of business sentiment in Germany, the region's economic engine, fell to a two-and-a-half year low.

Despite the dour data, European stocks held steady Wednesday morning. Britain's FTSE 100 (UKX) and the DAX (DAX) in Germany were little changed, while France's CAC 40 (CAC40) edged up 0.3%.

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In the United States, corporate earnings remain in full force Wednesday. Before the bell, Dow component Boeing (BA) reported earnings that beat analysts' expectations and raised its outlook for full-year profits. AT&T (T), another blue chip, also reported earnings that topped market expectations and said cash-flow this year will be better than previously expected. Social game maker Zynga (ZNGA) will report after the bell.

On the economic front, the Census Bureau will release data on new home sales for September at 10 a.m. ET. New home sales for September are expected to come in at an annual rate of 385,000, up from 373,000 in the month prior, according to a survey of analysts by Briefing.com.

Wednesday afternoon, the Federal Reserve will issue a policy statement around 2:15 p.m. ET following the conclusion of its latest two-day meeting, though the central bank is not expected to release much new information.

U.S. stocks sold off Tuesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average sliding more than 240 points to a seven-week low after a slew of disappointing earnings.

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Companies: After the market closed Tuesday, Facebook (FB) reported third-quarter sales of $1.2 billion, in line with analyst expectations. Shares of the social media giant jumped 13% in premarket trading.

Netflix (NFLX) shares plunged more than 12% in early trading, after the company on Tuesday reported disappointing figures for new streaming subscriptions and offered weak guidance.

Ford (F) announced plans on Wednesday to restructure its European manufacturing operations, citing weak vehicle demand.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar rose against the euro, but fell versus the British pound and the Japanese yen.

Oil for December delivery gained 15 cents to $86.82 a barrel.

Gold futures for December delivery fell $16.90 to $1,709.45 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury edged lower, pushing the yield up to 1.77% from 1.76% late Tuesday.

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